There is a term many Lutherwood staff members use to describe those who have spent decades at the organization. “Lutherwood Lifers” dedicate their working years to the agency’s Mission, Vision and Values, and to helping to make Waterloo Region a better place to live.
This term does not just refer to staff. There are just as many “Lutherwood Lifers” in the community who have dedicated years of service through volunteer work, regular donations and other important involvement.
The Soehner Family is as close to the definition of a Community Lutherwood Lifer as family could get.
It began back in the 1990s, when a family friend of Marshall and Rose Soehner told them about an upcoming retirement living opportunity that they should keep their eyes on.
Peter Bjerland was a long-time Lutherwood donor who would later be a member of the Lutherwood Child and Family Foundation’s Board of Directors. He had heard of a new retirement community development that Lutherwood was building called “Luther Village on the Park”.
“It was the perfect time for us, my parents were just starting to think about trading in their four-story house for something easier to manage at their age,” said Muriel Soehner, Marshall and Rose’s daughter. So, when construction was completed in 1997, the three of them moved into one of the Garden Villa Units.
Being a part of Lutherwood through Luther Village made Muriel want to learn more about the organization, so she started volunteering in the Foundation Office and attending special holiday events.
“I met some of the youth and I could see the benefits being realized from their short-term stays. I could see that they had made a turn in the road and there was progress. Seeing that and realizing the broad geographical scope of Lutherwood’s services were incredible.”
During the expansion of the Children’s Mental Health Centre, the Soehners learned that the old chapel would need to be torn down, and Lutherwood was looking to raise funds for a new one that could also be used for other purposes. They decided to step in and help, and thanks to a generous donation, the room was erected and dedicated in 2012.
Since then, it has been given a new name, “The Soehner Family Spiritual Life Centre.” This all-inclusive space is where the youth at Lutherwood can go for special events, assemblies and for quiet reflection time.
“Even as a Christian, seeing this growth in the organization and the chapel space is important,” Muriel said. “I am completely on board with inclusivity at Lutherwood.”
Muriel encourages the entire community to make Lutherwood a priority and become “Lutherwood Lifers” like she has.
“Mental illness has become more important in recent years and is now something people can finally talk about,” she explained. “Lutherwood has been right there all along and is now gaining more visibility which is showing their importance and strong track record. So, to me, being a donor of Lutherwood has always been an easy decision.”
"I was 17, confused and thought I was a lost cause. I became homeless. I heard about Safe Haven's youth shelter, but was skeptical and scared. [But] the staff are extremely friendly and so supportive...I wasn't judged. They showed me how to cook, do a budget, and even helped me with my homework."